About Celeste Guap (7/11/16)
Susun Kim, Executive Director
On April 7, 2016, we celebrated the 1st year Anniversary of the Central Family Justice Center. We prepared a Press Release and contacted over 30 news agencies, including TV stations, about this big event. Nobody came. I assumed that there was a highway shooting or a hit and run incident somewhere. Or maybe a forest fire was raging somewhere.
In contrast, when the news about Celeste Guap broke, so close to our home (West Family Justice Center in Richmond), I received calls from several reporters. They all wanted to get information about Celeste. I explained that ethical rules of confidentiality forbid the disclosure of any client names, as well as any details pertaining to services or outcomes. Safety and confidentiality are the two most important values that we practice here.
While I will not tell you anything about Celeste, I will ask you to consider whether the media is understanding, let alone considering, her needs in this situation. Is the media addressing or taking into account what can be done to help her, or what will keep her safe? Or are they exploiting her and sensationalizing her story?
Trafficking is a complicated crime. It involves power dynamics, and sometimes, the facade of a relationship. It reflects our cultural norms and societal influences. Human trafficking is not only our community’s problem, but also a nationwide problem. Our children, especially those growing up in violent homes or being sexually abused in their homes, are at risk of becoming trafficking victims. The average age for a child lured into sex trafficking is 12 to 14. Many trafficked children (and adults) do not recognize their own victimization. Meanwhile, there is a general lack of awareness or understanding of human trafficking in our community and what resources are available. Compounding the issue is that there simply are not enough services and resources available to trafficking victims, especially affordable housing and mental health counseling.
What can you do? Let us stop using the word, “prostitute.” Try, “trafficking victim.” Remember that minors involved in commercial sex acts are victims of human trafficking regardless of whether force, fraud or coercion is present. You can learn more about human trafficking through on-line resources, such as traffickingresourcecenter.org. Locally, we offer interactive trainings through our Family Justice Institute in partnership with Contra Costa Zero Tolerance for Human Trafficking Coalition. We will host several community learning events this year.
After the media attention moves onto another catastrophe or disaster, we will still have young people in our community who are vulnerable to trafficking, in need of protection and support. We will have a lot of work to do.